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An Old Friend

Chunni is an old friend.  We go back about fifteen years, when she started working in my house as a cleaning lady.  Well, cleaning lady would be the terminology I'd have used.  My in-laws called her the 'kaamwali'.  She was the woman who came every morning to help us with the housework.  She'd wash all the dishes and sweep and then wash the floor.  She's been in and out of our house for years.  She first arrived when my eldest, Neil, was just a baby.

I met her the other day when I was going to the local shops.  We chatted for a few minutes.  We enquired about each other's children.  I understand that Chunni is few years younger than I am, but she married early in life and is already a grandmother several times over.

She is a very intelligent woman in spite of the fact that she's illiterate.  'Chunni' means a long scarf or 'dupatta' worn by subcontinental women along with the shalwar suit.  When I asked Chunni how she acquired this as her name, she explained that as her elder sister was called 'Munni' (little girl), she got a rhyming name so that when her mother called them, she'd say: "Munni, Chunni."  I know that this can happen.  I once knew a little girl called Gomti (the name of the local river in Lucknow) whose baby sister was automatically named 'Somti' (which doesn't mean anything at all - as far as I know).

Chunni is out of her house these days because of a big fight she had with my mother-in-law.  They are very fond of each other but my MIL gets mad when Chunni forgets her manners and the fact that she is a servant.  I'd really like her to come back.  I know she's facing hard times nowadays.

For another story about Chunni, see my LBC post 'Listening' on Out of Ireland, into India.

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